My least favorite thing as a mother is mommy guilt. I have yet to meet a mother who does not experience this. Whether a working mother or stay at home there are pressures in society that cause us to question our motives and our actions on a constant basis.

Although my goal is for this to be a site that any parent can learn from and feel comfortable in, I felt that this article was an important one to include despite the fact that it is written for mothers specifically. However, if you are the partner of a mother I think this will be an important one for you to read as well.

Whether a working mother or stay at home there are pressures in society that cause us to question our motives and our actions on a constant basis.

We feel guilty when we take time apart from our children to do anything for ourselves.
We feel guilty when we are with them, and we are too tired to play.
We feel guilty when we refuse them things that they want.
We feel guilty about feeding decisions we make, about the amount of homework they get, about going out on date nights.
We feel guilty if we choose to send our kids to daycare, yet we also feel guilty if they are home without a playmate.

The list goes on and on.

I am not even going to talk about worry today (I am pretty sure I could write a whole book about that one).

There have been many moments in my life as a mother when mommy guilt has reared its ugly head.

I remember a few specific instances mostly because they brought me the most pain.

It didn’t take long for me to feel mommy guilt for the first time, our oldest daughter was just a few weeks old.

I was breastfeeding her, as is recommended, and things seemed to be going great at first. She was starting to gain weight, and we were on a roll. Around two and a half weeks in we had a couple of nights where she simply could not settle. We took her to see the pediatrician, and she was losing weight. I felt horrible. He recommended that I pump and supplement with formula. The support system for breastfeeding mothers was not quite the same then, or at least not as widely discussed or available.

Another week or so went by, and I was pumping all day long only to get a 4-ounce bottle of milk from all pumping sessions combined. Oh the guilt I was feeling! Why couldn’t I produce enough milk? Should I even bother? Am I the worst mother because I want to stop? I mean I am a pediatrician! Shouldn’t I be able to do better? Meanwhile in the background, not realizing that it was doing more harm than good, my family was saying “just give her a bottle… she’s so small… you weren’t breastfed and you turned out fine….”

I finally called my pediatrician and asked him for permission to stop. I look back now and know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but since then I have been asked for that same permission countless times. I know it is something we feel we need sometimes and that’s ok. At that time stopping to nurse was the best thing for my daughter.

I have since become a lactation consultant and would like to think I have helped many moms overcome some of these challenges and struggles. But I remember that time clearly, and I remember the stress of trying to nurse and how it was lifted when I stopped. I know that breastfeeding has a multitude of benefits, but for my daughter at that moment the best thing was for me to stop and yet I felt so guilty.

As a second-year pediatric resident, I recall vividly sitting in the Pediatric intensive care unit caring for a few of the sickest children in Central New York (we were living in Syracuse at the time). It was June, and my senior residents were graduating and gone for the day. I received a phone call and the number no working mom wants to see popped up on the caller ID – the daycare. Our first daughter was sick with a fever of 102. She needed to be picked up. “I’ll see what I can do… “ I told the daycare, an answer they probably haven’t heard too often, but it was my reality.

My husband, a surgical resident, was not going to be able to help me here. No family around and there was no way I could leave where I was. So I started making calls. Every friend in my contact list that might be able to help me. Even mom friends that I am sure didn’t want my sick child near theirs! And finally 2 hours later (what felt like forever) I called the daycare to let them know which friend would be picking her up. To be honest, I wasn’t really worried about the fever or whatever illness she was brewing at the time. But I will never forget how guilty I felt looking around the room at these terribly sick children and feeling that, in my career, I was caring for the needs of others’ sick kids while my daughter was sick and needed me.

This was not the last time the needs of others’ sick kids would come before the needs of my own kids, after all, I am a pediatrician, so I had to figure out how to avoid feeling this way every time I had to call in reinforcements. The truth is my daughter was fine. She was being well cared for and would be better in a couple of days, and she was too young at the time to understand what was happening.

As my children have gotten older, they must have learned a thing or two about guilt trips from their grandmothers! Initially, the guilt that came from them was horrible for me, but over time I learned how to overcome most of it.

I have one more quick story, and then I will tell you what I believe and how I coach parents when it comes to guilty feelings.

Our first two children were in daycare from a very young age. When we moved to New York, our second daughter was three and was about to start preschool. I was fortunate enough to have a cousin who would be sending her son to school with my daughter and could help me with the driving. Until that time my daughter had always been surrounded by children whose parents worked. Now, at the age of three, many of her friends’ moms were more available, and boy did she notice! One day specifically I remember her crying to me in the kitchen “How come so and so’s mom always comes to pick them up?” “Why can’t you ever come to my school?” To that, I responded “I know it’s frustrating that I cannot come to your school, but you know the dance class you take on Fridays? If you want to keep doing things like that mommy has to work”.

I thought my initial response was a good one, but when I had more time to think about it, I realized I was talking to a three-year-old who doesn’t really understand (nor should she have to). She once told me when she grows up she wants to be a stay at home mom, so she can be with her kids more… OUCH!

So what’s the solution?
Do stay at home moms have less mom guilt? Nope!
In the past four years, I have been home a lot more, and the feelings of guilt are just the same! You just feel guilty about different things.

Stop feeling guilty.

Ok I get it.. easier said than done. Deep down I think we all know that these feelings of guilt do not bring any positives along with them. It is just negativity all around which can’t be healthy for anyone.

When we feel guilty we end up giving in to things that are completely unrelated, going against our instincts to try to make our children happy. I don’t believe anything good ever happens when it comes from a place of guilt.

If you only have one takeaway from this post, I hope it is this…

I BELIEVE EVERYTHING WE DO AS PARENTS IS WITH THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR CHILDREN IN MIND.

When you are going out on date night, or putting them to bed against their will, or going to get your hair done, you are doing these things because on some level it is for their benefit.

You may ask, “but how can going to get my hair done benefit my children?” If you are taking the time to care for yourself and do the things that make YOU happy, it benefits your children. The time away to re-energize, the feeling good about yourself afterward, puts you in a different mood and mindset and allows you to behave differently with your children.

Next time you are starting to feel guilty about anything, I want to you stop and think about the potential benefits to your children. They are there in everything you do!

If you need extra support in this area, please schedule a call with me. Mom guilt is a topic I feel passionately about, and I would love to support you and your mindset in this area.